Submitted into Contest #43 in response to: Write a story about an unlikely friendship.... view prompt



If you steal something from another time, they will never find you. That’s what he’d promised. You disappear. You never were or are not yet. You’re transient, like speed, or like the wind. 

So easily she had stepped into those magical machines with their white coils and sharp rims, believing in the next world, the next moon, and the next theft. But one day she was caught, and everything she discovered thereafter destroyed everything she knew about time. It does not move or tick. It is one place, one moment. It is we who are moving. None of this is real.

“You lied to me!” She screamed into the unforgiving void.

She imagined her mentor, with his cold hazel eyes and sharp chin, looking down on her, a distant look on his face, as he replied, “Did I? Perhaps they are lying to you, not me. They are your captors, but you need not be their prisoner. Time is the only thing that is true.”

She tried to believe it, but she couldn’t puzzle out what was true and what was a lie. Had he lied? Had they? It couldn’t be both. 

She held out her hand, quickly finding the cold stone wall, and slid to the ground. 

She had only been in the little cell for a day, maybe two, but it felt like a lifetime. For years, she had been free, a whispered name that disappeared into time, unable to be found. She had assisted in the greatest heists in history. She had stolen paintings right out of the frame in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She had taken books from the Library of Alexandria before setting it on fire. She stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and replaced it with a copy.

And now, she was stuck in a pitch-black prison cell with her life crumbling around her.

“Come on, Akal,” she muttered to herself, “You’re fine. Everything is fine. You’ll get out of here. You’re impermanent. You’ll be out of here in seconds. Just the tick of a- oh. But seconds don’t exist. Time doesn’t exist. The only constant in my life is gone.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” another voice replied, “We all believed in Time just as firmly as you did.”

Akal jumped. “Who’s there?”

“My name is Cagney. I’m a prisoner here too. Who was your mentor, your trainer? Who told you the lie everyone on Earth believes?”

“Where are you?”

“He was an old man, wasn’t he? He wore suits every day, even when you saw him at the grocery store at three in the morning. His name was Time. He didn’t care about you, only what you could do. You did everything to gain his favor because he was the only father figure you had. Because you couldn’t bear to leave him. Because you loved traveling through time. Because you didn’t realize it was an illusion.”

Akal paused. “How… do you know that?”

“He’s not coming for you,” Cagney continued, “He abandons everyone who gets caught, like us, even though it’s his fault. You can dream all you want but it’s futile. His mind is made up.”

“No. No. He wouldn’t lie to me. He found me as a baby on the side of the road. He realized what I could do. He raised me. He named me Akal - timeless - because he will be with me forever. That’s what he promised.”

“He lied,” Akal could almost hear the shrug, just from Cagney’s voice, “You said so yourself.”

“How do you know anything about me anyway? I don’t even know who you are!” Akal’s voice shook.

A hand landed on Akal’s upper arm. She screamed in fright, but Cagney said, “It’s okay! It’s me!” Cagney took a deep breath, “Look, Akal. That’s your name, right? Akal? Well, Time… he betrayed me too. Once upon a time, I was his prized pupil, his precious little robber girl. He erased my memories and told me a similar story. He told me that he found me on the street as a baby. He told me he named me. He said he loved me. He lied. Time is a lie and so is he. That’s why it’s his name. He never came for me and he’s never going to come for you.”

“I thought I was the only one he took in…” Akal trailed off. She didn’t know what to believe, but she felt in her heart that Cagney was telling the truth. Or what Cagney thought was the truth.

“I’m sorry, Akal. I really am. But he’s not coming to rescue you. He’s not a knight in shining armor. He’s a thief, a manipulator, a scam.”

Akal shook her head, though she knew that Cagney couldn’t see her. “I can’t believe that.”

“You have to. If you wait for him to save you, you’ll be waiting here forever. I should know. I have been.”

Akal laughed bitterly, recalling the life-changing revelation she had been given before being tossed into the dark like a sack of potatoes. “Forever doesn’t exist.”

“True, but it feels like it does. There’s no way out of here, no magic solution. There’s only you and me.”

Akal shook her head. “He’ll come for me. You’ll see.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

Akal didn’t reply. She stood up and started running her hands along the smooth walls.

“What are you doing?” Cagney asked.

“I’m finding a way out of here. You say that Time won’t come for us? Fine. I’ll go to him. And then I’ll see whether or not he cares about us, whether or not he cares about me.” Akal searched faster, “I’ll see if anything they told us here is true. I’ll learn the secrets of the universe. But I can’t do that in a cell where I can’t see my hand in front of my face.”

“You’re going to get us both in trouble.”

“I’ll be free,” Akal shrugged and turned towards Cangey’s voice, “Are you coming or not?”

May 25, 2020 02:12

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Josh C
09:31 Jun 06, 2020

This is a really cool story! I wish it was a long story so I could find out what happens. Do they get out, do they find time, how many times has time done this? Such a great concept.


Ash Brinton
14:45 Jun 07, 2020

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it!


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May Mills
00:45 Jun 02, 2020

I like your concept of time not really existing. I enjoyed the story very much, nice job!


Ash Brinton
14:10 Jun 04, 2020

Thank you!


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16:39 Jan 24, 2021

I LOVE this story! the way you wrote it makes me want to read it over and over again. It couldn't have been written any other way. -CJ/Winter


Ash Brinton
19:29 Jan 24, 2021

That is so sweet! This comment almost made me cry to be honest. Thank you so much! I'm glad you like it!


02:41 Jan 25, 2021

Your welcome!


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